The New York Times Book Review
La hojarasca (Leaf Storm and Other Stories)by Gabriel García Márquez, Gregory Rabassa (Translator)
Con La hojarasca nació Macondo, esa población cercana a la costa atlántica colombiana que se ha convertido en uno de los grandes mitos de la literatura universal. En él transcurre la historia de un entierro imposible. Ha muerto un personaje extraño, un antiguo médico odiado por el pueblo. Un viejo coronel retirado, para cumplir una promesa, se ha empeñado en enterrarle frente a la oposición de todo el poblado y sus autoridades. Como en una tragedia griega, el viejo coronel, su hija y su nieto van a cumplir la ominosa tarea. La acción, compuesta por la descripción de los preparativos para el entierro —una media hora— y los recuerdos de un cuarto de siglo de la historia de Macondo, se narra a través de los pensamientos de estos tres personajes.
The New York Times Book Review
Read an Excerpt
I've seen a corpse for the first time. It's Wednesday but I feel as if it was Sunday because I didn't go to school and they dressed me up in a green corduroy suit that's tight in some places. Holding Mama's hand, following my grandfather, who feels his way along with a cane with every step he takes so he won't bump into things (be doesn't see well in the dark and he limps), I went past the mirror in the living room and saw myself full length, dressed in green and with this white starched collar that pinches me on one side of the neck. I saw myself in the round mottled looking glass and I thought: That's me, as if today was Sunday.
We've come to the house where the dead man is.
The beat won't let you breathe in the closed room. You can hear the sun buzzing in the streets, but that's all. The air is stagnant, like concrete; you get the feeling that it could get all twisted like a sheet of steel. In the room where they've laid out the corpse there's a smell of trunks, but I can't see any anywhere. There's a hammock in the corner hanging by one end from a ring. There's a smell of trash. And I think that the things around us, broken down and almost falling apart, have the look of things that ought to smell like trash even though they smell like something else.
I always thought that dead people should have hats on. Now I can see that they shouldn't. I can see that they have a head like wax and a handkerchief tied around their jawbone. I can see that they have their mouth open a little and that behind the purple lips you can see the stained and irregular teeth. I can see that they keep their tongue bitten over to one side,thick and sticky, a little darker than the color of their face, which is like the color of fingers clutching a stick. I can see that they have their eyes open much wider than a man's, anxious and wild, and that their skin seems to be made of tight damp earth. I thought that a dead man would look like somebody quiet and asleep and now I can see that it's just the opposite. I can see that he looks like someone awake and in a rage after a fight.
Mama is dressed tip as if it was Sunday too. She put on the old straw hat that comes down over her ears and a black dress closed at the neck and with sleeves that come down to her wrists. Since today is Wednesday she looks to me like someone far away, a stranger, and I get the feeling that she wants to tell me something when my grandfather gets up to receive the men who've brought the coffin. Mama is sitting beside me with her back to the closed door. She's breathing heavily and she keeps pushing back the strands of hair that fall out from under the hat that she put on in a hurry. My grandfather has told the men to put the coffin down next to the bed. Only then did I realize that the dead man could really fit into it. When the men brought in the box I had the impression that it was too small for a body that took up the whole length of the bed.
I don't know why they brought me along. I've never been in this house before and I even thought that nobody lived here. It's a big house, on the corner, and I don't think the door has ever been opened. I always thought that nobody lived in the house. Only now, after my mother told me, "You won't be going to school this afternoon," and I didn't feel glad because she said it with a serious and reserved voice, and I saw her come back with my corduroy suit and she put it on me without saying a word and we went to the door to join my grandfather, and we walked past the three houses that separated this one from ours, only now do I realize that someone lived on the corner. Someone who died and who must be the man my mother was talking about when she said: "You have to behave yourself at the doctor's funeral."
When we went in I didn't see the dead man. I saw my grandfather at the door talking to the men, and then I saw him telling us to go on in. I thought then that there was somebody in the room; but when I went in I felt it was dark and empty. The heat beat on my face from the very first minute and I got that trash smell that was solid and permanent at first and now, like the beat, comes in slow-spaced waves and disappears. Mama led me through the dark room by the hand and seated me next to her in a comer. Only after a moment could I begin to make things out. I saw my grandfather trying to open a window that seemed stuck to its frame, glued to the wood around it, and I saw him hitting his cane against the latches, his coat covered with the dust that came off with every blow. I turned my bead to where my grandfather was moving as he said he couldn't open the window and only then did I see there was someone on the bed. There was a dark man stretched out, motionless. Then I spun my head to my mother's side where she sat serious and without moving, looking off somewhere else in the room.Leaf Storm and Other Stories. Copyright © by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Gabriel García Márquez, nacido en Colombia, fue una de las figuras más importantes e influyentes de la literatura universal. Ganador del Premio Nobel de Literatura, fue además cuentista, ensayista, crítico cinematográfico, autor de guiones y, sobre todo, intelectual comprometido con los grandes problemas de nuestro tiempo, en primer término con los que afectaban a su amada Colombia y a Hispanoamérica en general. Máxima figura del realismo mágico, fue en definitiva el hacedor de uno de los mundos narrativos más densos de significados que ha dado la lengua española en el siglo xx. Entre sus obras más importantes se encuentran las novelas Cien años de soledad, El coronel no tiene quien le escriba, Crónica de una muerte anunciada, La mala hora, El general en su laberinto, El amor en los tiempos del cólera, Memoria de mis putas tristes, el libro de relatos Doce cuentos peregrinos, la primera parte de su autobiografía, Vivir para contarla, y sus discursos reunidos, Yo no vengo a decir un discurso. Falleció en 2014.
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Date of Birth:
- March 6, 1928
- Place of Birth:
- Aracataca, Colombia
- Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 1947-48, and Universidad de Cartagena, 1948-49
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